Time to Reflect

Image resultAs 2016 reaches to an end, many of us like to reflect on the past year.

For many, looking back is a source of disappointment, sadness and wondering what they could have done differently and even better. Others look to the future and make many wishes for better times in the new year, raising concerns as to whether the future is going to be kinder than their past, setting the picture for anxiety to become the emotion of choice.

Truth is, the answer is focusing on the present, because this is what you have, right now. You can’t change the past and you can’t predict the future, but now, you can think about and evaluate your choices. You can use your past to learn from and make better choices and you can clarify what it is that you want in the future to evaluate the choices you are making now.

For those who are caught in the middle of a bitter and costly post-divorce conflict, think about what is happening now and ask yourself:

How is your conflict serving you?

What is your conflict bringing that you can’t get if you were to make peace?

A divorce/separation is about the children and money.

Is what you are doing right now, how you are using your conflict to meet your needs, bringing you what you want?

Think about what has this conflict done for you and your family so far and consider, at this rate, what will it cost for another year of this? Emotionally and financially.

Ask yourself if what you are doing now is in any way bringing your family closer or further apart and how is this affecting your children?

Are you contributing to your children’s happy childhood memory or raising children who will need to recover from their childhood?

You, and only you, have the power to make better choices now.

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Parenting after Divorce

Image resultA separation can make you reconsider many things about yourself, your future and your parenting.

While I insist that parents who separate remain the same parents they were before, for many, the break in their family unit has them facing challenges in how they are supposed to be with their children. There is a new awareness in parenting styles when it becomes clear that both parents are very different and the separation actually allows both parents to now explore their unique style which was not necessarily recognised before.

While the world is ever changing, parents often like to refer back to known parenting styles, but there has never been a greater need for parenting to change and adjust to the needs of our 21st century children.

So how should parents parent their children in the midst of their divorce so that it reflects lasting positive effects on the children?

Be a role model.

I can never emphasize enough the effect of our behaviours on our children. Children watch us more than they listen to us and they are great at mimicking us, so it is important to check that we are worth mimicking.

Don’t be so set with your children behaving in certain ways if you are not clearly being that way yourself.

Children see, children do.

Have fun with them.

Children like to have fun. That is a big way in which they learn and develop their emotional, social and cognitive awareness, yet many parents parent their children “seriously” by fear that their children would otherwise not take them seriously. Quite the contrary. There are wonderful messages that can be handed through play: patience, generosity, sharing are just some of the qualities that children learn through play.

So next time you are with your children, don’t worry too much about the fact that it is your time to entertain them and take them to amusement parks, the movies or a play date, just have fun with them, at home, in the car, while shopping. No need to spend money or go out of your way. Just be a little creative and simply have fun.

Connect with your children.

I meet many well intended parents, but with a focus on their anxieties about whether they are doing the right thing or not, they miss the simple task of talking with and listening to their children.

Many parents also complain how their teenagers just push them away and never share anything with them anymore. If this happens to you, understand that you are simply disconnected from your children. You may want what is best for them, but listen to how you are talking to them. Are you criticising them, blaming them, bribing them to try and control them? This will only push them away. Instead connect with them through caring, supporting and trusting them.

Children thrive on being accepted by their parents. If they feel that whenever they are doing something it results in some form of blame or criticism or constant nagging, they will soon become disconnected.

So keep your focus on staying connected with your children and you will see them thrive as they grow up.

The Law doesn’t raise children, parents do!

 

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How much maintenance should I pay?

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As a professional in the field of divorce support, this is a sentence I often read and hear: How much maintenance should I pay?

The legal implications state that it is the duty of parents to support their children.

For many parents it is a given, yet for many others, once a divorce/separation is on the table, supporting their children becomes a debate as to whether their children need as much, post separation, as they did before.

While it is a legal obligation, I personally struggle with the shift some parents experience in their roles and responsibilities towards their children when going through a separation.

I have yet to meet people who have become parents who have properly worked through a financial plan for raising their children. Sure, some parents open a college fund, but for the most part, it’s about making a plan, as they go along, regardless if parents are wealthy or just making ends meet. Having children is their pride and joy first and foremost and expenses that come with parenting will be met with extra work, sacrifices and finding solutions to offer their kids the best life they can offer them.

Comes a separation and suddenly their children get pinned a price tag which becomes an inconvenience, an undesirable expense and a constraint for which neither parents want to make sacrifices for.

Even though maintenance is the children’s right and the parents’ obligation, both parents need to move forward with the understanding that a separation comes at a cost which will need to be assessed thoughtfully. That there are added costs when one home becomes two and that some sacrifices will have to be considered, but in the midst of those added costs, children will still have to go to school, be clothed, be fed, be cared for and this ought not to be seen differently.

So, instead of focusing on the duty to maintain, consider what it is that your children need. Consider that your separation is not their separation and mostly, consider what the message of your court battles will send to your children about how much inconvenience they caused their parents for what they needed, growing up. This does not account for desirable childhood memories.

Children are an investment, not an expense and the Law doesn’t raise children, parents do!

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Visiting Hours

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In the lights of the recent news of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s divorce, we really ought to question when did the act of divorcing decide that one of the parent must become a “visitor” to their children?

 
The phrase: The mother has requested physical custody of the children while the father is granted “child visitation”, must raise some questions as to what family values are passed on to the children.

 
I can understand that a parent may encourage that following the separation they opt for a primary residence for the children, but when parents make the concerted effort to reassure their children that everything is going to be okay, separating parents should therefore understand that their new living arrangements should impact the children as little as possible and that BOTH parents will remain on equal terms involved in their children’s lives.

 
A divorce is the end of a relationship between 2 adults. It changes the relationship that those 2 adults had engaged in, it does not end their parental roles and responsibilities. It does not end the fact that the children naturally see their parents as mom and dad and not as primary and visitor parents. It does not dictate that it is normal for separating parents to entertain conflicts and rob their children of childhood memories.

 
The law doesn’t raise children, parents do!

 
It is time to be able to separate without having to destroy the family that once was the dream of 2 single people and now make their children the victim, not of their choice to no longer live together, but of further choosing to rob them of the experience of being able to love and be loved by both their parents.

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Co-operative parents, happy children

Image result for happy divorce happy childrenA divorce/separation has the aim to end a relationship two adults no longer wish to have together.

Whether the separation is consenting or not, it is necessary to acknowledge that if you are facing this eventuality, your relationship is no longer harmonious, and that alone needs to be realised. However, under no circumstances should this change the experience the children are meant to have with their parents.

For children, facing their parents separation is hard enough. To see the two people they love the most no longer love each other is a defying experience for their immature emotional self.

Now, while your separation will modify the time you spend with your children, it mustn’t interfere with their time spent with both their parents.

While your separation will need you to review finances, it ought not interfere with your financial responsibilities towards your children.

While your separation will divide your household, it ought not divide your children’s family.

The ending of your relationship does not define who you are as a parent. You still are the same parent with the same role and responsibilities as before and whereas some adjustments will have to be made by all in regards to schedule and finances, no adjustments are required in terms of loving and caring for your children.

Parenting is not a competition, it’s about working together to create your children’s childhood memories.

Here are a few tips on how to achieve working together for the sake of your children:

Keep trying until you get it right.

You are not going to get right the first time, granted, but if your motivation is shared to raise happy, healthy, stable children, then you will get it right.

Recognise your egotistical mind.

Your ego likes to compare. When in competition with your co-parent, you will inevitably compare yourself to them. Whether it’s by blaming yourself for not having as much as your co-parent or believing you are better equipped to take care of the children, comparing yourself and allowing your ego to interfere in your co-parenting relationship will hurt the children. Instead keep your focus on the love you share for the children.

Co-parents must learn to be compassionate and resilient.

I like to remind parents that all you truly are as parents, is a role model to your children. It doesn’t matter who is wrong or who has done wrong, you both need to engage in your parenting role as compassionate and resilient individuals. Only then will your children be able to learn how to become compassionate and resilient themselves..

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Is it just a necklace?

“Tell me, if you were in my position, what would you do?

What position is that?

Imagine your husband bought a gold necklace, and come Christmas gave it to somebody else…

Would you wait around to find out…

Would you wait around to find out if it’s just a necklace, or if it’s sex and a necklace, or if, worst of all, it’s a necklace and love?” – Love Actually.

Infidelity is probably one of the most common issues reported in relationship breakups.

The ones being left to discover the cheat, feel betrayed and often guilty that they may have some part to play in it.

The phrases: s/he cheated on me; I was cheated on; How could they do this to me? translate a clear and direct role in the cheating of their spouse, and while cheating is an act which may explain a variety of reasons, cheating has nothing to do with you.

  • There is no such thing as cheating by accident.

The excuse that follows such an occurrence is often said to have just happened. It was an accident. I didn’t mean it to happen.

An accident is finding yourself in a car and not have enough time to break before crashing into the car in front of you. That’s an accident!

There is no such thing as stumbling over someone and cheating! Decisions need to be made before a person or persons chose to cheat and even if all of this happens rather quickly, it still is and never will be an accident! So let’s rule this one out shall we.

  • Cheating is a selfish act.

While you are hearing yourself saying how could they do this to me? The cheater, when cheating, has one thing and only one thing on their mind when they cheat, and that is themselves.

They may attempt to make you feel guilty by making you think it is your fault that things haven’t been great for a while between the 2 of you, but if this were true, then why not break up? It is not your fault that they do not choose to communicate what is missing in their life. It is not your fault that their best choice to deal with their current question-ability is to lie about the choice they are making. They are however choosing to satisfy their selfish need, regardless of the affliction it will cause.

  • Cheating is cowardly.

I hear many of you cheering now, but it truly is a cowardly act. Cheating follows the inability to address the issues in ones relationship to either make it better or acknowledge that it would be better to end the relationship. Cheaters also lead someone else on, whom, even though may be a willing party in the cheating, usually is fuelled by a certain amount of promises to keep them interested in their needy game.

  • This is not what it looks like.

Really? What is it supposed to look like? What excuses are going to make this in any way acceptable? Truth is, cheaters seldom take responsibility for their choices. They will fish for many excuses to validate the infidelity. It is therefore suitable to remember that, there is no such thing as cheating being an accident, they are selfish, they are cowards.

So next time you think about your spouse/partner/soon to be ex or ex as someone who has cheated “on you”, remember that you are not responsible for someone else’s choices especially when those choices are fuelled for a brief self-gratifying moment.

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It Takes 2 to Tango

I’m sure you are all too familiar with the saying it takes 2 to tango.

The tango is a dance which requires two partners moving in relation to each other. The partners sometimes move together and sometimes in opposition, but at any given time they are part of the movement. A tango with only one dancer is no longer a tango.

So, while you are no longer in a romantic relationship with your ex, if you are in a conflict with them, you remain part of the “tango”.

When parents separate, they inevitably remain in a parenting relationship. When this relationship is conflicted, it is worth while to consider what your role in the conflict is. Even if your ex is the unreasonable one, you become part of the conflict, if like the tango, you move with your partner, being together or in opposition.

Conflicts often emerge more when people are stressed and circumstances change.

Staying out of a conflict is much more intricate than ignoring the conflict. Ignoring the conflict could still be seen as taking part in it by being passive aggressive.

Staying out of a conflict requires more understanding on your part about your behaviour rather then your opponent’s behaviour.

So how do you go about understanding your role in your ongoing conflict when you are close to certain, that it’s your “partner” who is at fault.

See how you answer the following questions:

  • Do you recognise that you have to be right for the conflict to end?
  • Are you highly emotional?
  • Do you criticise your ex for what s/he does or how s/he does things?
  • Do you blame your ex for your current situation?
  • Do you complain a lot?
  • Do you nag to get what you want?
  • Do you attempt to punish by withholding things that your ex wants?
  • Do you threaten with legal action?
  • You hang on to telling the same negative story over again?
  • Are you seeking people’s approval to your situation?
  • Are you feeling guilty about what is happening?
  • Are you mostly thinking negatively about your situation?
  • Your self esteem is damaged
  • Have you lost the ability to foresee a bright future and set new goals?

Being in a conflict is never fun and leaves people feeling miserable and a victim of their circumstances. But being in a conflict motivates people to remain negative as conflicts are about being right and not what is right.

When focusing on a solution and adopting a positive approach to the disagreement at hand, people are able to leave the conflict by not feeding it and while you may not be the one creating the conflict, it is important to acknowledge your role in it, in order be able to remove yourself from it.

So take a step back, breathe deep, listen and use your conflict to increase understanding and creative thinking. The conflict is not the conflict. The conflict is how you deal with the conflict.

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Swear Jar

Presentation1How many parents will identify they have some variant of a “swear jar” at home?

It’s been recognised by many households to be a way to raise awareness of some bad habits that their children have and a way to modify those bad habits by putting a price on it which makes the child take responsibility for it.

It’s never fun to pay money for something that will show no personal return, that one doesn’t budget for or that is not believed to be a valid investment.

This gave me the idea that this concept should be introduced to parents who are separating in a conflicted manner.

What if every separating family were to have a “conflict jar” managed by their children?

What if for every conflict, every bad mouthing, every show of not taking responsibility, every blackmail, every holding of child support or child visitation, parents would have to pay an amount to the “conflict jar”?

If, as a Parent, you introduce this jar to your children’s upbringing because you want them to be the best person they can be, growing up, wouldn’t be acceptable for your children to introduce such a jar for their parents to be the best parents they can be for their children’s upbringing and childhood memories?

Taking responsibility to remain conflict free for the children’s sake is one of the most trying thing parents face, yet it is the most important thing parents need to have control over if they are truly concerned about what their separation is doing to the children.

Put yourself in your children’s shoes. How do you think they feel when they cannot make their parents change their bad habits?

What would your “conflict jar” look like?

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Do Put your Kids in the Middle!

Parents going through a separation are more than familiar about the many reasons why they should not put their children “in the middle” of their separation conflicts.

Putting your children in the middle of your disagreements, threats and blackmail hurt children, and every effort must be made to understand that your divorce/separation is not your children’s divorce/separation.

Putting children outside of your conflicts, though, still leaves your children vulnerable, because, while you are making some real efforts to not bad mouth their other parents in front of them, or argue with their other parent in front of them or even discuss your role and responsibilities in front of them, this means that many a time you will actually, physically, be telling your children to leave the room they are in, to do all of the above. Do you see where I’m getting at?

Keeping your children safe from your conflicts and disagreements goes far beyond not doing all these things in front of your children. Keeping your children safe and sparing your children from the hurt of your separation is actually being able to keep your children in the middle.

You see, children live in the space that is between their parents. What you do with that space will determine the quality of your children’s childhood.

Haven’t you noticed how children love being in the middle of their parents? They love to sleep between their parents, sit between them, walk between them, just be between them all the time. Children feel safe being in the middle …. So next time you are concerned about what your separation is doing to your children and you are making the effort to not put them in the middle, make sure actually that you are keeping them in the middle:

  • Of knowing that the love you have for your children has no conditions.
  • From feeling they have permission to love and be loved by both their parents.
  • From not having to take sides.
  • Knowing that even if they will live in 2 houses it’ll always be their home.
  • From feeling safe just being kids.
  • Of keeping their family intact.

Because children feel safe being in the middle, just keep the middle safe for them!

 

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Father’s day is Children’s day

After a separation, Mother’s day and Father’s day are most likely days that have turned into a power struggle to have the day, or even just some time, spent with the children.

As a great advocate of a Child-Centred divorce, I aim to raise awareness that as the parents and adults in your children’s lives, these type of celebrations need to be seen as further occasions for Role Modelling.

 

  • Remember that your children are dependent on your behaviour to shape themselves into their future adult.
  • Remember that children are dependent on your ability to not talk to them about doing the right things, but showing them how to do the right things.
  • Remember that your children are dependent on you, their parents, to collect happy childhood memories.

If you find yourself, this Father’s day, with some concerns and challenges as to whether your children’s father should be with the children, it is worth evaluating that, although this day celebrates fathers, it is about your children’s time to celebrate the part of them which they connect to their father. It doesn’t matter whether their father is a good or a “bad” dad. Even absent fathers need to be acknowledged, even if it means that they have done only one thing right, and this thing is called giving them life. So, allow your children their right to enjoy BOTH their parents and be allowed to be loved by BOTH their parents.

Fathers have a very important role to play in their children’s lives. Do not rob your children of this privilege.

TODAY, YOU have the power to actively contribute to your children’s happy childhood memory.

Whatever your resistance towards your ex and whatever your conflict, you can eliminate the tension that exists between the two of you by keeping the focus on the children.

Don’t value a legal piece of paper which says otherwise. Value that your children’s family means the freedom to love and be loved by both their parents.

If you are nonetheless struggling with these times and finding that it is about you sharing your children as opposed to your children’s right to have time with both their parents, SADSA can assist you with Co-Parenting Coaching or assist you with a Parenting Plan Partner.

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